By Lia Blanchard
As you finalize your Memorial Day plans, chances are that it includes a barbecue. Whether you’re a grilling guru in the making or a barbecue boss, it’s always good to “brush up” on the basics.
Whether your barbecue uses gas or charcoal, you’ll need to heat it up before putting any food on it. Let a gas-powered unit heat up for about ten minutes; a charcoal one will need about twice that. Once it’s heated up, you should be able to easily brush off any gunk on the grate using a wire brush. If you like, you can apply some canola oil to your newly scrubbed grate bars to keep your food from sticking to them.
While everyone has their own style at the barbecue, there are some basic techniques that will help ensure your meal is truly tasty.
Keep the juices from flowing. Don’t poke or squish your meats and vegetables. Use tongs, and flip only once during cooking.
Add flavor: herbs. An herbal experience adds a whole different dimension to your taste buds. You can soak sprigs in water and lay them on the grate as a bed for your food , wrap them in foil with your meat or veggies, skewer them, or use them in your favorite marinade . If you’re using a charcoal grill, try adding soaked sprigs directly to the hot coals!
Add flavor: smoke. A gas grill may have a smoker box – follow the instructions for use. On charcoal, simply soak some wood chips in water and put them directly on the coals. Close the cover of your grill and let the smoke do its thing – hickory, mesquite, and apple are commonly used, each imparting its own distinct flavor.
Add flavor: basting. Debates have raged about how and whether to baste meat while grilling. Whatever your preference, care must be taken not to drown the food in the sauce, and not to overcook the sauce. Tip: if you have sugar in your sauce, save it for smoking only. Sugar’s burning temperature is relatively low, and will burn or caramelize over open flame.